Our top five sustainability stories of 2020

Why we think change is not just possible – it’s already starting to happen

Is there reason to be optimistic in the fight for clean capitalism? Corporate Knights thinks so, and our readers clearly believe it, too. We’ve compiled a list of Corporate Knights’ five most popular stories of 2020. They cover a broad range of topics: two of our renowned “lists,” one radical proposal from an oil-industry executive, our big roundtable initiative and an offbeat tale of how Ottawa’s reforestation program literally missed the forest for the trees.

What do these stories have in common? They share an acute sense of climate urgency, but better yet, they share an informed belief that change is not just possible – it’s already happening. We just have to make sure to get it right.

Catch up now on our greatest hits:

1. Green 50: Top business moves that helped the planet 

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, CK highlighted 50 key business decisions that put planet before profit. Relive the moment when SC Johnson first stood up for the earth’s protective ozone layer by banning aerosol products containing chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Learn why Patagonia adopted its groundbreaking motto “Leave no trace.” Cheer on Adidas as it became the first shoe company to recycle ocean plastic at scale. Each entry also includes a “To Do” list of unfinished chores that reminds us that sustainability is a journey that never ends.

2. Canada’s oil sands are best positioned to lead the energy transformation 

Published June 1, this column reimagining our energy future was co-written by Mark Little, president and CEO of Calgary-based Suncor Energy Inc. With co-author Laura Kilcrease, CEO of Alberta Innovates, Little reviewed how the Canadian oil sands were developed by energy iconoclasts who disrupted the status quo. Today, they say, the same pioneering attitudes can ensure that Canada’s oil and gas industry leads the coming global energy transformation, where the opportunities range from biofuels to advanced manufacturing: “Those who can learn from the past are empowered to win the future.”

3. 2020’s class of Top 30 under 30 sustainability leaders shape #nextnormal 

If you need a dose of hope and inspiration, this is the feature for you. In November, Corporate Knights released its 2020 list of 30 outstanding young Canadians actively working to create a healthier world. “They’re taking to the streets and to the boardrooms calling for racial justice, they’re pushing their workplaces and businesses to embrace a higher purpose, they’re determined torchbearers of the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and they’re making their voices heard, demanding a more equitable, caring and green economic recovery.” We bet you’ll agree with 20-year-old activist Kehkashan Basu, founder of the Green Hope Foundation, who told us, “Youth continue to be marginalized in all forms of decision-making. It is absolutely imperative that we have a seat at the table.”

4. Building Back Better: A roadmap to the Canada we want 

This may be the most ambitious article we’ve ever published. It summed up our seven-part Green Recovery roundtable series, to produce a daring omnibus plan for building a better, stronger Canada – and by extension, the world. Authors Ralph Torrie, Céline Bak and Toby Heaps said that a federal investment of $10 billion a year (just 0.4% of GDP) over the next decade would galvanize an additional $681 billion in other investment, creating 6.7 million years of employment and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 237 million tonnes – enough to meet our Paris Agreement commitments. How to pay for it? Yes, we covered that too.

5. It’s time to start planting forests (not just trees) to grow Canada’s climate solutions

This article by Daimen Hardie, co-founder of Community Forests International, begins with a provocative premise: “I planted more than a million trees with my own hands and it didn’t really help the climate.” Taking aim at a federal $2-billion program to plant two billion trees, he argues that creating sustainable forests requires an ecosystem mindset and preserving existing forest lands – not just planting trees that will be harvested 40 years down the road. “The trees are good,” writes Hardie. “They’re just not enough. If we’re betting on natural climate solutions to secure a liveable future, we really need to get this right.”


Which features rounded out our Top Ten?
Read more illuminating and needle-moving stories from 2020: 

Top company profile: Denmark’s Ørsted is 2020’s most sustainable corporation

Bank report card: Three of Big Five banks fail to deliver ethical investment options

The EV revolution will take batteries, but are they ethical?

Hydrogen can make Canada an energy superpower again

Pandemic Portfolio: Two stocks to watch as COVID-19 drags on

Latest from Leadership

current issue